JDR: Greetings to all paddle enthusiasts. I hope that everyone has had a fun, healthy and productive season to date. I have enjoyed reading Alex Bancila’s Q&A here on paddle player.com in the past and thought I might do my own modified version of the same. Actually, I am going to let one of my students ask me some questions and I will do my best to give some information or answers that will help. My student is Mike from Vermont (MFV) and he is 65 and a “B” level player. So lets get started.
MFV: How are you today?
JDR: Good, thanks.
MFV: Thanks for calling me a “b” player.
JDR: My pleasure for upping you from a “c”
MFV: How was your recent trip to South Africa?
JDR: Awesome, thanks. Good beer great company and most of all good weather.
MFV: Is there any paddle tennis in South Africa?
JDR: Haha. No paddle, we have good weather.
MFV: Wow, do you think you are the best South African to play this sport?
JDR: The dreaded question! I am sure there was someone better but hopefully I can make the top 10.
MFV: How many South Africans have ever actually played paddle before?
JDR: About 10? I actually have no idea.
MFV: As a result of all the on court instruction I have received from you, you probably know what my favorite topic is?
JDR: Diane Lane in the movie “Unfaithful”?
MFV: No, no paddle topic.
JDR: Ok, ok serving.
MFV: I know you already wrote an interesting article on paddleplayer on serve tactics. Nice job.
JDR: Thank you.
MFV: However, could we back up a bit and discuss some serving fundamentals and mechanics?
JDR: We can try.
MFV: Ok, lets discuss from a right hander serving to the deuce court ok?
JDR: Fire away!
MFV: How about stance?
JDR: Very similar to tennis. Your left foot at about a 45 degree angle to the baseline. Your right foot pretty much parallel to the baseline and the heel of your left foot should pretty much be lined up to the centre of your right foot.
MFV: How about grip and grip pressure?
JDR: Try using a continental grip if you are advanced enough, but beginners can get away with an eastern forehand and some of the top guys go to a eastern backhand grip. Grip pressure is very important! Try and imagine you’re holding a small bird and you don’t want it to fly away, but you also do not want to hurt it. So hold the grip very lightly.
MFV: How about weight distribution? As you know all too well this is a big problem of mine.
JDR: You should be balanced at all times and you want your weight to go up and forward. Your problem normally is that you lose your balance (too much beer?) And just fall into the court. Which means you personally might have to keep more weight on your back foot.
MFV: How about toss? Height and proximity to the body?
JDR: You want your toss more to the right and forward just do not overdo it or your margin of error will get too small if the ball is far away from you as the ball’s trajectory will be too flat. Make sure your contact point is a little to the right of your left toe but you should be able to push forward into the court to allow you to follow the ball in for serve and volley.
MFV: Can you talk about arm swing path and follow through and acceleration?
JDR: You want your arm to be extended but really your arm is just an extension of the body. Your arm should be coming from the inside of the ball towards the outside. That means more from your inside to the side fence that you are facing which will promote spin. Now you will never have a follow through that accelerates if you do not rotate your body as that will be the engine that drives your arm and will improve your paddle head speed. Your paddle needs to accelerate through the ball (very important!) And rotating your body will make that possible. Good tip for this is to watch the ball till after contact as a quiet still head will make good rotation more likely.
MFV: How about pushing off and landing on which foot?
JDR: Old school players use to land on their right foot to promote getting into the net faster but I think that decreases the quality of your serve. So in my opinion most of the good servers land on the left leg which can result in a better serve and hopefully an easier first volley more often.
MFV: Wow lots of useful information to digest!!!
JDR: Thank you and hope it will make the difference for you.
MFV: Serving is something a player can practice alone and improve.
JDR: Yes it is. Just make sure you continue to the net when you practice serve. After all it is serve and volley.
MFV: How important is the following:
JDR: Very important and you did not do too bad in the order of importance.
MFV: Do you think height of player’s toss is important?
JDR: Yes it is. It should be lower than tennis but be careful as too low of a toss leads to a small margin for error and a lot of faults. It is still more important to get the serve in rather than hit the perfect serve.
MFV: What do you think is the perfect height for a paddle player?
JDR: 6ft 2 in!! Actually a tough question but I think around six foot is a good height as you do not give up too much mobility at that height and you can get more than enough power with fairly long limbs!
MFV: How tall are you?
JDR: 6 ft 2 in
MFV: Well, thanks for the advice regarding serving.
JDR: No worries its been my pleasure.
MFV: Are you looking forward to the upcoming nationals on long island?
JDR: Absolutely. The most fun weekend of the year!
MFV: Do you think you will be the best South African player at nationals?
JDR: Don’t make me answer that question. These South Africans are big and tough I would not want to cross them. At least I will be top ten as there must be less than ten in the draw, ha ha.